With the transition from 2D to 3D, from dumb symbols to intelligent objects, content becomes even more important. It takes longer to produce a family of 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) parts than 2D symbols, and the potential benefit is much greater.
There are a number of BIM component suppliers, ranging from the NBS National BIM Library (nationalbimlibrary.com) to independent, innovative libraries like the BIMstore (bimstore.co.uk), which recently teamed up with Barbour Search.
Initially many of these focused on content for Autodesk Revit but have slowly started to offer components for Graphisoft ArchiCAD and Bentley AECOsim. However, Revit still has the greatest support being the clear volume player.
Some library providers have opted to work in the industry independent Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) format, so many software products can gain access. The limitation here is on the depth of information that can be added to this format versus a native parametric library.
Some CAD firms like Graphisoft have created their own library of BIM parts and Autodesk is now expanding its Seek web-based content engine (seek.autodesk.com)from being exclusive to the US, to Europe and Asia.
The problem though, has been to get the manufacturers of building components to provide BIM-ready libraries for designers. The real advantage of BIM is in the ‘Information’. If manufacturers included all the product specifications into a 3D BIM object, the BIM model would provide even better, deeper data, as well as saving the design office from having to model it.
The great news is that, unlike 2D CAD, many manufacturers are waking up to the fact that the UK Government is mandating Level 2 BIM on all its project from 2016. Manufacturers that provide BIM libraries of their products to the design community are much more likely to be used and specified. Kingspan, Blyweert Beaufort, Dyson, Velux and Steelcase are just some of the firms that have BIM-ready components available.
One of the new BIM library providers comes from Sweden. BIMObject.com is now a global player in providing free downloadable BIM components of real-world manufacturers products from the portal or within the BIM application. The company has over 16,500 manufacturers (500 based in the UK) who pay BIMObject to produce intelligent 3D content in a variety of formats (ArchiCAD, Bentley, Revit and Tekla) supporting 2D details and 3D sections with materials and properties, including constraints. If a BIM component is used and updated, the user gets notification of a product change.
BIMObject also keeps old or deleted products available to assist with future maintenance issues.
The manufacture gets access to analytics that show how many of their BIM components are being used and designers can send queries via the portal to the manufacturer about performance and prices. BIMObject is also cutting deals with other library suppliers, working within ArchiCAD’s ‘bimcomponents’ portal.
It is still early days for BIM but in the UK the government’s decision to mandate deliverables for large projects has generated incredible pressure for the construction industry to jump onboard. This is having a trickle down effect to mid-size and smaller architectural practices that anticipate it will not be long before they also have to migrate their design platforms.
The more of this content that is available the easier it will be to quickly create really useful models for the whole building lifecycle.
Over the years, I have talked to a number of leading BIM-enabled architects that have used a variety of online libraries with variable results. Quality, detail and content are all important with BIM components. Too much detail and model file sizes can swell; too little detail and the benefit downstream will be questionable.
Many of the libraries with customer-uploaded content can also show huge variance.
These inconsistencies and lack of standards are indicators of a young market. As usage grows and architects start to trust these professional providers the benefits of adopting a BIM approach to design will become even more apparent.